Two days ago, I was traumatized when I found out that Son has not one, not two, but FOUR cavities. It was Son's first dental appointment, and I had a sinking feeling that the dentist was going to confirm that the rather odd spot in the front of Son's teeth was in fact a cavity. I was NOT prepared to hear that there were four. Furthermore, I was not prepared to hear that they were going to need to be fixed; Son would need to be put on laughing gas and his teeth would be drilled. As the dentist explained to me, and patiently answered my various questions regarding procedure, my mind spun wildly out of control with the words...THIS IS MY FAULT!
Friends keep on telling me not to blame myself and that maybe it is a genetic predisposition (soft enamel or large grooves) but I know what the truth is. Our dentist made no mention of such genetic predispositions and I had to confess to her that I don't always help Son brush his teeth. Daughters #1 and #2 have no cavities, no problems in their mouth and with a little assistance from me, get the teeth brushing done. Son, on the other hand, is entirely a different story. He HATES brushing his teeth. I have spent a small fortune trying to figure out HOW to motivate him to want to like it with frantic purchases of different flavored toothpastes, fancy toothbrushes with characters on them and floss that tastes like fruit. He still hates it. The ONLY way he would get his teeth brushed was with sheer force. I used a flying tackle to bring him down, a leg over manuever to pin him, and got him screaming so his mouth would be open, just so I could quickly stick a toothbrush in his mouth and frantically try and get what I could before Son completely went bonkers.
The cavities are my fault because that flying tackle scene is not something I wanted twice a day. Every morning and every night? Forget about it. I just couldn't do it. Physically and mentally it was just too much. Son's disposition is one of pure joy and humor and the struggles over teeth brushing were simply too much. I let him slide. He would say, "I brushed my teeth mommy" and I would "believe" him. It just became easier not to have to fight him EVERY single night and so there were many nights, more than I care to remember, that I let him slide.
But there is nothing like hearing about four cavities, the drilling and the laughing gas that must follow, to light a fire under a mom. The day after we learned about the cavities, I was a general waging World War III in our house over teeth brushing. I barked out orders, flossed EVERY child's EVERY tooth and personally executed teethbrushing for every single child. The whole war took 20 minutes, but thankfully it was done without too much fuss. Son, even, submitting himself rather meekly to my massive toothbrushing campaign with few protests. (I'm guessing the whole cavity situation has snapped some sense into him.) I am motivated, driven and committed to keeping the remaining untainted teeth healthy in Son and Daughters mouths.
I have this cartoon image in my head of me with a fire lit under me. And in this image, I turn around, hop off the fire and start cooking on it. It's this spicy pork dish I would like to cook in that fire, if only to remind myself that sometimes you need a little bit of trauma to get you fired up and motivated. It's spicy, easy to make, but so delicious with crisp romaine and silky green cabbage. Both of those greens help cool the heat in the dish and make it just extra delicious.
As a note, Son LOVES this and handles spicy very well. But Daughter #1, who doesn't like spicy, really loved it wrapped in the steamed cabbage. Daughter #2 who is a medium spicy lover gobbled down tons of rice with the pork and kept on commenting on how yummy it was. So don't be afraid to try it on your children. You may be surprised at how much they eat.
Korean Spicy Pork Bulgogi (Dweji Bulgogi 돼지불고기 or Jeyeuk Bokkum 제육볶음)
1 1/2 lbs thinly sliced pork shoulder (also called pork butt) OR you can use pork belly for this (your local Korean market will have the appropriate cut of meat)
1/3 cup Korean chili pepper paste (gochujahng 고추장)
3 tablespoons finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon hot pepper flakes (gochugahloo 고추가) omit this to reduce the heat)
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon crushed toasted sesame seeds
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 scallions, cut into 2 inch lengths
In a large bowl, mix together gochujang, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sugar, sake, sesame oil, honey and sesame seeds. Add thinly sliced pork and using your hands, make sure each piece is evenly coated.
Add onions and scallions and mix well. Allow to marinate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
Heat a heavy fry pan over medium high heat. It is better to cook this in batches, than trying to cook it all at once. Cook half the pork until the onions are translucent and the meat is fully cooked, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate and cook the other half of the pork.
Serve with steamed cabbage leaves, crisp romaine, or Korean lettuce. (If you want to learn about steaming cabbage, check out this post.)
Eating this helps me forget my guilt.